Court Rules Wegmans Vanilla Ice Cream Packaging Not Misleading

An order filed in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday dismissed a complaint which alleged Wegmans Food Markets’ vanilla ice cream was improperly advertised as vanilla.  The court determined that the claim that the ice cream is flavored with artificial flavors has no factual support.

The court document explained, “the large-type ‘Vanilla’ (on the container) is of immediate use. Of course (a buyer) is not looking for a bowl of vanilla, and the next largest words confirm that the container holds ice cream. Those who prefer natural ingredients will note that it has natural vanilla flavor, and no artificial flavors. Evidently there are various natural substances which have a vanilla flavor. Those interested in the actual ingredients can read the list, which mentions neither vanilla beans nor extracts … That is where the container’s disclosures start, and where they stop. Where is the deception? What is misleading, or misrepresented?” It stated that the plaintiffs assumed buyers think the natural vanilla comes from vanilla beans, and the fact that the vanilla does not come from vanilla beans in this instance is misleading.

The plaintiffs, Quincy Steele and Jimmy Arriola, filed a complaint last October. They alleged that the grocery store chain and manufacturer was participating in deceptive acts, fraud, false advertising, misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment with its labeling of vanilla ice cream. The plaintiffs claimed they, along with others in the class, were deceived when buying the ice cream because the vanilla flavor came from a non-vanilla source.

The court determined that the label did not misrepresent the contents and that the plaintiffs’ chemical analysis showed there was not “fraudulently little vanilla bean extract.” The analysis allegedly showed there were .787 parts of vanilla per million. The order says the test may have not had the sensitivity to detect other profiles of the vanilla bean and that the test is “inapplicable” to the legal action.

The plaintiffs are represented by Spencer Sheehan and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is represented by August T. Horvath with Foley Hoag.  Sheehan recently filed a complaint on behalf of different plaintiffs also involving allegations of fraudulent advertising of vanilla flavoring.